By Ramon Gonzales
It would be impossible to discuss the Weenie Roast without feeling some kind of nostalgia for its former home. The Fiesta’s tenure down in Irvine was over two decades strong and provided a generation’s worth of fond concert memories. For years, the Weenie Roast was synonymous with The Meadows. Book-ending that chapter last year segued into some uncertainty about how the concert’s new home would pan out. However, the transformation of the StubHub Center into a complete festival experience resonated in a new energy that immediately made the fresh space feel familiar.
Challenging the Southland’s standard of arriving fashionably-late, the Weenie Roast faithful made their way through the gates early and flooded the new footprint, eager for a full day of KROQ music. Breaking in the new digs with two stages and 13 performances worth of action, suffice to say that the fans felt right at home with the new look and feel of the annual Fiesta.
Bud Light Stage Dos
Far from the polite applause that typically fills the space of the Tennis Courts at Stubhub, the Bud Light Stage Dos area of the Weenie Roast provided a promising glimpse of how the rest of the evening would play out. Despite some serious heat, the fans filled the intimate space to sing and dance along as The Revivalists, New Politics, and Judah and the Lion made a convincing ploy to start the party with the sun still up.
In what would be the first, but not only time the saxophone was featured front and center, The Revivalists rendition of “Wish I Knew You” prompted the fans out of their seats and into a collective sway.
The trio of New Politics spent their 30 minutes working up a sweaty frenzy with tunes like “Kings and Queens,” “One of Us,” and a cover of the Beastie Boys’ party staple, “Sabotage.”
Rounding out the trifecta, Nashville’s Judah & the Lion took folk instrumentation like the banjo and mandolin and crafted energetic jams that ensured fans were justified in arriving early. In addition to the band’s single “Suit and Jacket,” the guys executed a rendition of T-Pain’s “Booty Wurk” that reminded everyone that concerts are supposed to be fun.
The redesigned configuration of Weenie Roast afforded a bit more elbow room. The expanded floor section and the stadium-style seating provided the kind of spectacle that made already eager fans antsy to get the show started. KROQ’s resident DJ Jeremiah Red took to the turntables to craft a 60-minute blend of party anthems that culminated in special appearance from recent Roq N Beats guest, Kennedy Jones. Flexing some hometown love, Jeremiah Red dropped the needle on the instrumental to Dr. Dre’s classic “XXXplosive” and let Jones go with a lyrical freestyle that instantly ratcheted up the energy in the arena.
Manning the early evening spot, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness proved convincing with the big melodies behind singles like “Fire Escape” and “Cecilia and the Satellite.” In the same set, McMahon also managed to include a Jack’s Mannequin tune and performed a portion of “Don’t Speak for Me” while being passed above the pit in an inflatable off-road truck.
Fresh off their debut release, the sharply-dressed DREAMCAR clocked in an impressive set of tunes that included everything from saxophone solos to tambourine-wielding back-up singers. The potent combination of Havok, Kanal, Dumont and Young have created modern new wave music in a way that pays tribute to the past and paves its own way. Selections like “Born to Lie,” Kill for Candy,” and “All The Dead Girls” aren’t but weeks old and already the fans were working as Davey Havok’s supporting chorus.
There was a unique fanaticism that gripped the StubHub when it came time for Lana Del Rey to take the stage. Her slow-moving, subtle, sultry signature had an entire arena fixed as she treated her most loyal to new music with the song, “Cherry.” Working in the essentials like “Video Games,” “Summertime Sadness,” and her collaboration with The Weeknd in the title track, “Lust for Life,” Lana couldn’t miss. During a time when the booze and the heat should have hit the crowd like a ton of bricks, Lana’s set hypnotized the arena and left the fans feeling hot under the collar.
There are few bands that could play the same song twice in an abbreviated set. Paramore proved to be one of those bands. Channeling catharsis in a pop song, the band started and ended their stint at Weenie Roast with their latest, “Hard Times,” and the audience couldn’t have been more appreciative. They also scored one of the highlights of the day when the band pulled a fan from the crowd to help Hayley with the latter half of “Misery Business.” While the move has become a staple in the band’s set, an entire arena watched as a fan got to share the stage with her favorite band. Whether people knew it was coming or not, the theatrics electrified the place from floor to concourse and certainly reiterated Paramore’s commitment to their fans.
Appropriately introduced by Stryker, 311 wasted zero time and immediately dove into a greatest hits set that articulated the band’s deep roots with KROQ. From “Beautiful Disaster” to “Down,” from “Don’t Stay Home” to “Amber” 311’s catalog spans more than two decades and still feels fresh when the band is onstage. Sneaking in their latest single, “Too Much to Think,” before obliging the fans again with more of the favorites, the band packed a party into under an hour and left the crowd wanting more.
Matt Shultz is a madman. He, along with Cage The Elephant, proved relentless as the band checked in with the loudest, most raucous sets of the day. Charging back and forth on the stage and ultimately bailing to perform from the pit, Shultz was brilliantly commanding with a string of hits that included “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Shake Me Down,” and “Come A Little Closer.” It was the unapologetic rock of jams like “Mess Around” and “In One Ear” where the band proved pummeling. If the assertion is still that rock is dead, Cage The Elephant used the Weenie Roast stage to emphatically prove otherwise.
In what was one of the most endearing moments of the evening, Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds stepped out into the spotlight and had a noticeable crack in his voice as he spoke about how grateful he and the band were to be apart of Weenie Roast 2017.
He recalled driving into LA from Las Vegas and hearing KROQ first play their music. He thanked the crowd for giving them the opportunity to pursue their passion in a moment of stage banter that felt anything but. The band supported that sentiment with a powerful set that included a new tune, “Thunder.” The locomotive pace of selections like “Radioactive” and “I’m So Sorry” translated perfectly in an arena. The band’s sweeping melodies and empowering lyrics provide an almost anthemic quality to the songs that make even the casual fan a believer. Imagine Dragons will be a huge part of why this first Weenie Roast at StubHub will be particularly memorable.
There were a handful of important highlights contributed to Weenie Roast by the band Incubus. The band made the live debut of their latest, “Love In the Time of Surveillance” a single that echoed yet again that rock music is in fact, alive and well. Making sure the fans got their fill, the band also included their essentials like “Drive,” “Pardon Me,” and a rendition of “Wish You Were Here” that left an entire arena feeling wonderfully fuzzy.
Before exiting the stage however, Brandon Boyd articulated a sincere tribute to Chris Cornell, asserting that Cornell was “one of three people that made me want to be a singer.” In what was likely the single defining moment of the show, Boyd invited Matt Schultz from Cage the Elephant to perform Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” in a moving tribute to such an influential figure in rock music. The bittersweet tune proved a powerful punctuation.
Capping the festivities, Lorde was the consummate professional despite some technical difficulties. Early in her set, the 20-year old songstress flexed composure beyond her age, sitting at the edge of the stage while her crew worked in the shadows. The move was endearingly human and did little to derail her jam-packed set. Performing new cuts including “Sober,” “Melodrama,” and “Homemade Dynamite,” Lorde displayed a keen ability to craft mesmerizing melodies into powerful 4-minute pop stanzas. Closing out with fan favorites like “Royals,” “Team” and a brilliant departure in “Green Light” fans had reason to dance in the late night hour before making their way back to the parking lot.
Thank you to everyone who came out and joined us for KROQ Weenie Roast y Fiesta 2017! Check out the rest of our KROQ Weenie Roast Y Fiesta 2017 coverage here.